The Ketchikan City Council will make a gigantic decision within the week.
The council is in the process of reviewing proposals it sought a year ago in regard to Port of Ketchikan and upland development. By law, it can accept one or reject all. That’s inherent to the process.
Much has happened leading up to and since the city received the RFPs and started their review. The summer of 2019 began with the announcement of Ward Cove Dock Group’s intention to build a couple of docks capable of handling cruise ships and the group’s contract with Norwegian Cruise Lines to call at that facility, meaning the cruise line wouldn’t be calling at the city docks.
Public forums and public comment filled with passion followed, and, by October, the council had decided to request proposals. Frankly, the city needed the information provided in proposals before it could make any decision pertaining to port development. It’s difficult to choose a direction without all of the facts.
Some of those facts materialized in the form of responses in February. Once those proposals came in, the city could review and determine what was possible. Of course, the proposals would differ, and they did significantly. Additionally, the city could compare other options, such as a city undertaking, with those proposals.
That’s being done, and, given that numbers and their configuration might shift in contract negotiations, leave it to say that the city would realize millions of dollars in income by overseeing the project on its own, and it would retain more income than it would as a result of one proposal than it would with the other.
There is much to be considered. But, the most important, although money is major and making a decision that best benefits the local economy is critical, the most salient thought pertains to integrity of the developers, whether it is the city itself or one of the authors of the proposals.
It has been alluded to that litigation is a possibility depending on the City Council’s final decision. While particulars of what that litigation might be specifically haven’t been made public, if, in fact, any party is talking about filing a lawsuit at this point in the process, that is a red flag. Whoever, if anyone, is flying a red flag, then the council would do well to distance itself. A 20- or 30-year contract, which has been proposed, with a litigious-minded entity would be a disaster for all concerned.
The City Council does, and did before the municipal election a couple weeks ago, consist of honest and well-meaning public servants. Their intent is to do the best they can by the community. They will want to work with others of like character.
It’s obvious over the past year while this process has been underway much has changed and most of it was out of the council’s control. Chief among the changes was the advent of the novel coronavirus; it has altered the city’s positioning and view from which to make the upcoming decision — the community isn’t likely to get the 1.7 million cruise ship passenger season as soon as had been forecast. With the COVID-19 effect, the city’s priority should be on working with the industry — including the Ward Cove group — to return ships safely to Ketchikan. In a relatively small and remote community such as Ketchikan, the two entities will need to work together. Because times will come when they need to depend on each other; one will be the other’s backup. The need for that backup might be as unlikely as a viral pandemic, but here it is.
And the community’s cruise and tourist seasons will be better with all in Ketchikan — even potential new folks — working together and with demonstrative integrity.
Then decisions — even gigantic ones — can be made in clear conscience.